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Under new leadership: Center Grove group gets things done

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The passing of the torch is no small thing for the Center Grove Athletic Booster Club.

New president Mike Garrison knows this having recently succeeded Mike Combs, whose term lasted the past three school years.

Its mission: market Center Grove athletics while at the same time generating income through fundraising. The club, which in 2013-14 had a total of 24 board members, continues to be the big engine that does.

“I ran into a friend of mine about three-and-a-half years ago, and he asked me if I would be interested in being on the board. I was on the board for three years, two as a member and one as vice president. My primary reason is I’m a sports fan and wanted to be part of it,” Garrison said.

As a result, Garrison, whose term began in June, witnesses the inner workings of a booster club started in the early 1980s when Center Grove’s enrollment wasn’t what it is now.

The common threads woven through that growth are the people who either once were booster club members or are today.

“If you peel back the layers of what makes Center Grove so special, it’s how engaged and involved the parents are,” Garrison said.

Combs concurs while also pointing to the manner in which local businesses demonstrate their support by advertising in the school’s yearly fall and winter sports programs.

“The reason the booster club does such a good job is the businesses in the community really support Center Grove athletics. That’s really the lifeblood of the booster club,” Combs said.

Of the approximately $35,000 raised annually by the Center Grove Athletic Booster Club, Combs said about half of that comes from advertising. The yearly summer golf outing brings in close to $10,000, and booster club membership fees account for $6,000 to $7,000.

“Nothing is used for anything other than the athletic system. It goes directly back to the kids, whether it’s golf balls for the golf team or new hurdles for the track teams. All the teams are equally important to us,” Combs said.

Center Grove High School athletics director Jon Zwitt understands the hours booster club members put in and appreciates their loyalty and professionalism.

“I can honestly say in my 18 years that I’ve never had to go to a booster club member and say, ‘Well, this is not what your function is.’ They take care of themselves, and they don’t allow that to happen,” Zwitt said.

“It’s a good what we call working board, so you don’t get a lot of parents that come out there just so they can gripe. They come on, and they really work their tails off.”

As a member of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, Center Grove battles the likes of Carmel, Ben Davis and Warren Central annually in all sanctioned sports. Those schools’r sports programs, too, are greatly enhanced by booster clubs that for decades have been magents for advertising and membership.

Therein lies one of Garrison’s challenges — the same one Combs and his predecessors dealt with since the eight-school league was formed in 1997.

“One of the things I like to do is look at ways to help us have the resources to compete at a high level. A lot of our athletes get great exposure because of the conference we’re in,” Garrison said. “We are trying to continue the excellence that is Center Grove.”

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